第223章 [1756](53)

It was by this especially that she impressed me with awe.I knew she was difficult as to conversation, and she had a right to be so.I knew women, especially those of her rank, would absolutely be amused, that it was better to offend than to weary them, and I judged by her commentaries upon what the people who went away had said what she must think of my blunders.I thought of an expedient to spare me with her the embarrassment of speaking; this was reading.She had heard of my Heloise, and knew it was in the press; she expressed a desire to see the work; I offered to read it to her, and she accepted my offer.Iwent to her every morning at ten o'clock; Luxembourg was present, and the door was shut.I read by the side of her bed, and so well proportioned my readings that there would have been sufficient for the whole time she had to stay, had they even not been interrupted.* The success of this expedient surpassed my expectation.Madam de Luxembourg took a great liking to Julia and the author; she spoke of nothing but me, thought of nothing else, said civil things to me from morning till night, and embraced me ten times a day.She insisted on me always having my place by her side at table, and when any great lords wished to take it she told them it was mine, and made them sit down somewhere else.The impression these charming manners made upon me, who was subjugated by the least mark of affection, may easily be judged of.I became really attached to her in proportion to the attachment she showed me.All my fear in perceiving this infatuation, and feeling the want of agreeableness in myself to support it, was that it would be changed into disgust;and unfortunately this fear was but too well founded.

* The loss of a great battle, which much afflicted the king, obliged Luxembourg precipitately to return to court.

There must have been a natural opposition between her turn of mind and mine, since, independently of the numerous stupid things which at every instant escaped me in conversation, and even in my letters, and when I was upon the best terms with her, there were certain other things with which she was displeased without my being able to imagine the reason.I will quote one instance from among twenty.She knew I was writing for Madam d'Houdetot a copy of the Nouvelle Heloise.She was desirous to have one on the same terms.I promised to do so; and entering her name as one of my customers, I wrote her a polite letter of thanks, at least such was my intention.Her answer, which was as follows, stupefied me with surprise.(Packet C, No.43.)VERSAILLES, Tuesday.

"I am ravished, I am satisfied: your letter has given me infinite pleasure, and I take the earliest moment to acquaint you with, and thank you for it.

"These are the exact words of your letter: Although you are certainly a very good customer, I have some pain in receiving your money: according to regular order I ought to pay for the pleasure Ishould have in working for you.I will not mention the subject again.I have to complain of your not speaking of your state of health: nothing interests me more.I love you with all my heart; and be assured that I write this to you in a very melancholy mood, for Ishould have much pleasure in telling it you Luxembourg loves and embraces you with all his heart."On receiving the letter I hastened to answer it, reserving to myself more fully to examine the matter, protesting against all disobliging interpretation, and after having given several days to this examination with an inquietude which may easily be conceived, and still without being able to discover in what I could have erred, what follows was my final answer on the subject.

MONTMORENCY, 8th December, 1759.

"Since my last letter I have examined a hundred times the passage in question.I have considered it in its proper and natural meaning, as well as in every other which may be given to it, and I confess to you, madam, that I know not whether it be I who owe to you excuses, or you from whom they are due to me."It is now ten years since these letters were written.I have since that time frequently thought of the subject of them; and such is still my stupidity that I have hitherto been unable to discover what in the passage, quoted from my letter, she could find offensive, or even displeasing.

I must here mention, relative to the manuscript copy of Heloise Madam de Luxembourg wished to have, in what manner I thought to give it some marked advantage which should distinguish it from all others.I had written separately the adventures of Lord Edward, and had long been undetermined whether I should insert them wholly, or in extracts, in the work in which they seemed to be wanting.I at length determined to retrench them entirely, because, not being in the manner of the rest, they would have spoiled the interesting simplicity, which was its principal merit.I had still a stronger reason when I came to know Madam de Luxembourg.There was in these adventures a Roman marchioness, of a bad character, some parts of which, without being applicable, might have been applied to her by those to whom she was not particularly known.I was therefore, highly pleased with the determination to which I had come, and resolved to abide by it.But in the ardent desire to enrich her copy with something which was not in the other, what should I fall upon but these unfortunate adventures, and I concluded on making an extract from them to add to the work; a project dictated by madness, of which the extravagance is inexplicable, except by the blind fatality which led me on to destruction.

Quos vult perdere Jupiter dementat.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau